There is a new law called AB 506 that took effect in January 2022 that now categorizes churches as Youth Service Organizations under the Business and Professions Code § 18975 and imposes new and specific requirements on them. Let’s look at those specifics.
First, what exactly is a “Youth Service Organization”?
A Youth Service Organization is an organization that employs or utilizes the services of persons who, due to their relationship with the organization, are mandated reporters pursuant to Paragraph 7 of subdivision (a) of Section 11165.7 of the Penal Code.
Section 11165.7(a) defines a mandated reporter as any of the following: an administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth organization.
The bottom line? If your ministry provides any events, classes, groups, camps, programs, etc., for minors, then your ministry is a Youth Service Organization, and your employees are now considered mandated reporters.
Understanding the AB 506 Requirements for Churches
There are three parts to the AB 506 requirements: screening, training, and policies.
Background check screening: AB 506 states, “An administrator, employee, or regular volunteer of a youth service organization shall undergo a background check pursuant to Section 11105.3 of the Penal Code to identify and exclude any persons with a history of child abuse. Section 11105.3 says that a background check must “include the applicant’s fingerprints.” Therefore, you must perform a Live Scan background check on those listed above; in a ministry setting, that is your employees, elder board members, and regular volunteers who work with minors.
To perform a Live Scan background check, you must first apply to become an Authorized Applicant Agency with the Department of Justice for state criminal record background checks in the state of California. You must complete this application and submit it to the DOJ for approval, which takes several months. To help with the lengthy application, we’ve created a sample to help you fill it out correctly.
We highly recommend you also perform the federal check at the same time for a more thorough result. There are three fees involved in a Live Scan:
State Check – $32 for employees, waived for volunteers
Federal Check – $17 for employees, $15 for volunteers
Fingerprint rolling fee – Varies from free to $99; to find a location, visit the DOJ website here and scroll to the bottom to find your organization’s county.
Training requirement: the same people in your organization who are screened (listed above) must also be trained in the identification and reporting procedures for child abuse and neglect. A “regular volunteer” is defined in AB 506 as someone at least 18 years of age who has direct contact with or supervision of children for more than 16 hours per month or 32 hours per year. However, we highly recommend that you screen and train all volunteers working with minors. The training may (not must) be fulfilled through the state’s website at mandatedreporterca.com. We at Church HR Network have created a faith-based, online training module that satisfies the requirement and offers several benefits that the state training lacks, such as an admin module for managing your team’s training, a shortened (but still comprehensive and excellent) training time of 90 minutes, and specialized, nuanced information for ministries.
Policies requirement: AB 506 says, “youth service organizations shall develop and implement child abuse prevention policies and procedures, including but not limited to both of the following”:
Suspected child abuse or neglect must be reported outside of your ministry to law enforcement or child protective services. That means you may not simply report the abuse to a pastor or leader in your church; it must also be reported to outside authorities.
To the greatest extent possible, two mandated reporters must be present whenever kids are being supervised. That means you must have at least two adults who have been Live Scanned and trained present in each class, event, etc., where minors are being supervised. Many ministries have high school students who serve in kids’ ministry, and that is good, but there must also be two screened, trained adults over 18 years of age there as well.
Adhering to these new AB 506 requirements may mean some changes to the way your youth ministries operate. You may have a bit of work to do to organize your compliance. But don’t worry! We are ready and willing to help you navigate that work and to provide an excellent training option for your team. Contact us today for guidance at 888-807-2476 or [email protected].